(Photo via Facebook)
Last year, as a freshman woman in computer science at Drexel, I sought a supportive environment that provided resources for my (female) friends and me to explore tech in a more meaningful way. That’s why I started FemmeHacks, Philly’s first all-women collegiate hackathon.
Now in its second iteration, FemmeHacks gathered over 100 college and high school women last month at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted by Penn’s Women in Computer Science (WiCS) club. (I transferred to Penn last fall.) The hackathon attracted hackers from across the country, and even some from India and Canada.
I started FemmeHacks at a time when only 18 percent of college computer science graduates identify as women today. In recent years, more women-centric coding initiatives that aim to increase diversity within the field have gained traction, like Girls Who Code and Girl Develop It. Many tech companies have been working hard to support the diversification of tech, and some like Google and Facebook showed their support in sponsoring FemmeHacks and sending engineers to help mentor the hackers.
Penn computer science majors Amelia Goodman and Anvita Achar, WiCS board members and I all helped the event come to fruition with planning starting in August. Our goal was to inspire and encourage women interested in tech within the Philadelphia area, allowing them to make projects that they were really proud of.
In addition to making the hackathon a great experimental space, Penn WiCS also worked hard to make the environment as memorable as possible for attendees.
We hosted really engaging workshops on Friday night to introduce beginners to new technologies, had a photo booth on Saturday and took Polaroid pictures of all of the teams to keep everyone excited. We handed out Sugar Philly macarons were to everyone right before submission time for the final push. We wanted to make FemmeHacks as beginner-friendly as possible, since it seems like many women are discouraged from exploring the field to begin with.
Here’s who won (and what they won):
Bias Buster: a web app with a text analysis tool to identify, quantify, and correct bias. (Parrot MiniDrones)
Procedural Tones: a procedural music generator based on Conway’s Game of Life. (Stephen Starr Restaurants gift card)
Best By Women For Women
WordGirl: a web app and Chrome extension that rates webpages for their similarity to a trigger or keyword. (Moto 360 for Women)
Best Tech For Good/Hardware
TerrainMap: terrain-sensing hardware device to improve accessibility route mapping for wheelchair users. (Bluetooth speaker and Intel Dell tablet)
FemmeHacks will be back at again in 2017.